Shanley Accused of Child Sexual Abuse in Vermont

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(Host) The former Boston priest who was arrested in San Diego Friday and charged with three counts of child rape once operated a retreat in Vermont.

In the early 1970s Paul Shanley, who is at the center of the child sexual abuse scandal in Boston, was the leader of a retreat in Weston. At least one of Shanley’s accusers alleges that he was abused in Vermont.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Zind) In the 1960s, Paul Shanley was a young, charismatic priest, popular for his work with troubled Boston area teenagers. Now the 71-year old Shanley is accused of sexually molesting 26 young boys. Documents released last month as part of a lawsuit show that church officials knew about the allegations against Shanley and knew of Shanley’s public endorsement of sex between men and boys. Despite that, Shanley was allowed to continue to serve as a priest.

In 1971, while he was still a priest in Boston, Shanley established a retreat he called Rivendell on a 95-acre farm on Route 100 in Weston. The land was leased from the Weston Priory but there was no other connection between the retreat and the priory. Brother Richard is a monk at the priory.

(Richard) “For a period of time during 1971 and ’72, the Reverend Paul Shanley leased a piece of property which is owned by the monastery, together with a house and a barn to be used as a rest and recreation center, a kind of retreat center exclusively for adults working in service to street youth.”

(Zind) Brother Richard says the farm leased by Shanley is about a mile from the priory and the monks had very little contact with Shanley. He says Shanley chose not to renew the lease after the first year. At the time, the priory was not aware of any problem involving Shanley and allegations of sexual abuse. However, at least one of Shanley’s alleged Boston victims claims he was abused in Vermont.

Arthur Austin claims Shanley brought him to Vermont in 1972 for two extended stays at the Rivendell Retreat in Weston. Austin says he was sexually abused by Shanley on both occasions. Austin says the retreat was not the adult program that it pretended to be:

(Austin) I would describe it as fundamentally a candy store for Paul Shanley. There were a lot of kids there. A lot of young people. And most especially a lot of young guys.”

(Zind) He says Shanley indicated to him that there was a great deal of sexual activity involving the young people staying at the retreat.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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